Having breast cancer and possibly even a mastectomy is more common than we think and it’s a challenging journey for the women themselves and the people who care for and about them. It can be lonely, painful and for many, they can feel as if their body is not their own, a distance from their earlier selves. Entrepreneur Allison Schickel set out to change all that.
Her adaptive bra-robe The Brobe features a supportive built-in bra plus strategic inner pockets to hold post-op items like ice packs and drainage bags. Velcro and snap fasteners boost accessibility into the bra, while the robe’s fashion colors make women feel a bit more like themselves.
“The Brobe focuses
on the woman and the wellness,
not the sickness.”
Interestingly, despite its 9 patents in the U.S. and abroad, The Brobe wasn’t initially conceptualized for breast cancer survivors, but rather for women with ample breasts! “I just wanted to be able to wear a robe, have some support and fight boob sweat while I was running around the house getting ready!” laughs Schickel, who hails from the often-sweltering state of Texas.
It wasn’t until she sewed her first prototype that Schickel struck upon The Brobe’s true mission. A friend with Stage III breast cancer was detailing her “dehumanizing” post-mastectomy experience of taping JP drains to her body because she didn’t have pockets in her chintzy hospital robe, plus the humiliation of greeting hospital visitors that way. “But she didn’t have any options,” says Schickel. That’s when the light bulb went off.
Schickel brought The Brobe to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, connected with breast cancer patients, then honed her vision based on (often emotional) focus group feedback. This “therapy in a robe” quickly caught the attention of movers and shakers supportive of this, um, very supportive item, reinforcing its purpose and mission.
After its official 2012 launch, the awards started pouring in. In addition to receiving a coveted Tory Burch Fellowship Program, Schickel also received a Women in Tech Award; Dallas Market Center Next Big Thing Award; InnovateHER Challenge Award, Best of Austin Recovery Award from the Austin Chronicle, among many others.
The unforgettable “Brobe” name might get a chuckle, but it’s clearly serious business.
The Brobe has since branched out beyond its mastectomy customer, offering relief and confidence for those who’ve had breast reconstructive surgery, open-heart surgery, lumpectomies, organ transplants, or even just nursing mothers who need additional support. Products include the Recovery Brobe (with three-quarter sleeve for easy IV access), Drain Belt (with wicking material for shower), Recovery Bra (with inner pockets), Comfort Pillow (with a pocket for an ice packet), and the 50 x 70-inch Comfort Blanket.
The newest item is the Superhero Robe for kids, complete with detachable movable pockets for tubes and drains, and adorably, an interchangeable superhero cape with a matching mask.
Schickel is thrilled that she’s contributing to people’s well-being, citing a survey that 87 percent of women continue to wear their Brobe long after they’ve recovered. “I hear from women every day who are just so grateful for this product,” she beams. "It gives them their power back."